Constitutional indaba resumes

HARARE – Zimbabwe’s power-sharing government on Tuesday resumed efforts to write a new constitution for the country that appeared in danger of derailment after a key conference collapsed in chaos on Monday.\r\n

Our reporters at the Harare International Conference Centre where the convention is due to resume say the situation is calm as delegates have already started filling up the conference hall.

There were reports that President Robert Mugabe, Deputy Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and Deputy Premier Arthur Mutambara will address the convention that is expected to chart the course for the constitutional reforms.

Organisers had to call off the conference yesterday after delegates from political parties making up the country’s power-sharing government became rowdy, started singing songs mocking one another and threw objects at each other. Riot police had to be called in to calm the situation that threatened to degenerate into violence.

But Mugabe on Monday evening condemned the disruption of the conference and vowed that the reform process outlined under last year’s power-sharing agreement that led to formation of the unity government last February should go ahead.

"We feel disturbed and we have a sense of abhorrence at what has happened this morning," Mugabe said, at a joint press briefing with Tsvangirai and Mutambara.

"We are here to say we will not brook any further nonsense in the future. We must have a constitution done. It is a necessity," Mugabe said.

Tsvangirai, whose MDC party had earlier on Monday blamed supporters of Mugabe’s ZANU PF party of disrupting the conference, concurred with the veteran leader’s call for the reform process to continue, adding that the proposed new constitution was critical to Zimbabwe’s future. 

"If we undermine that (constitutional reform process), we undermine our existence. We hope there would be no detractors or resistance to that process," said Tsvangirai.

Mutambara echoed the same sentiments, saying the drafting of a new and democratic constitution was critical to ensuring the country was able to hold fresh free and fair elections as outlined in the power-sharing agreement between the three main political parties.

Once a new constitution is in place, the power-sharing government is expected to then call fresh parliamentary, presidential and local government elections.

Zimbabwe is currently governed under the 1979 Constitution agreed at the Lancaster House talks in London.

The constitution has been amended 19 times since the country’s independence in 1980 and critics say the changes have only helped to entrench Mugabe and ZANU PF’s stranglehold on power. –